The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has ruled that the Guyana National Assembly “properly passed” a no confidence motion (NCM) against the Government on December 21. Thereupon, the clear provisions of Article 106 became “engaged.” The Court explained that Article 106 is clear and it is the responsibility of the constitutional actors in Guyana, including GECOM, to honour them. The Court said that elections should have been held since March 21, 2018, but was under pause because of the court cases. “But this Court rendered its decision on 18 June, 2019. There is no appeal from that judgment.”
In very clear language, quoted above and below, the Court said that while it is not the responsibility of the Court to fix a date for elections, it must be held in accordance with Article 106 of the Constitution. The ruling stated: “It is not, for example, the role of the Court to establish a date by or on which elections must be held, or to lay down timelines or deadlines that, in principle, are the preserve of political actors guided by constitutional imperatives. The Court must assume that these bodies and personages will exercise their responsibilities with integrity and in keeping with the unambiguous provisions of the Constitution bearing in mind that the no confidence motion was validly passed as long ago as 21 December 2018.” The complaints by Opposition lawyers about the CCJ not ordering elections by a certain date is not well founded. The Court did just that, but not in so many words.
The charade that the country has been witnessing over the appointment of a GECOM Chair, the charade over GECOM’s advisory mandate on the election date, the charade leading to crocodile tears about the electoral list, these must all end and end now. Thankfully, the CCJ did not embark on the well-worn path of urging accommodation between the two immovable objects in our political firmament. That has never happened and will not happen now. And time is short. The Opposition’s ill-advised public flaunting of a list if eleven, triggering the Government’s gleeful revelation of its own list of eight, followed by useless discussions between representatives which everyone knew beforehand would be a waste of time, is the kind of useless and fruitless one-upmanship that is a substitute for negotiation that has plagued Guyana’s throughout its entire modern political history.
When I suggested over a radio programme yesterday that upon the decision of the CCJ since June 18 the Leader of the Opposition should have submitted six names to the President and requested an urgent meeting with the President for consultation, as mandated by the CCJ, Mr. Anil Nandlall suggested that I was “dreaming,” but offered no other way forward. No doubt we will be treated to another legal treatise of Mr. Nandlall in the newspapers, including case law, advising us how to get the President to act with alacrity in the appointment of a Chair. The entire strategy of the Government has been to delay the holding of elections, which the competition between the two leaders, started by the Leader of the Opposition, to negotiate in public, plays to the delay tune. Already the President has placed the burden on the Opposition, suggesting that a Chair can be appointed by Monday if it acts “in a consensual manner and in good faith.”
Once again, APNU’s echo, the AFC, is reverberating. The AFC pronounces that preparing a budget is mandated by the Constitution so that it falls within the caretaker’s responsibility of the Government. In the face of settled convention, the Government refused to recognize its caretaker status. The echo, the AFC, supported the President’s pronouncement. The PPP should not be allowed to crow over this because, while it never made a public pronouncement, it never recognised its caretaker status in the past. The CCJ did not have to do so, but it placed a basic and well-recognised principle above and beyond our intractable disputes where President Granger, who couldn’t find it in our Constitution, could now easily locate it.
The CCJ tried its best to make clear that integrity must prevail and all, including GECOM, are bound by the Constitution and Article 106. The President, who has a penchant for interpreting the Constitution in his own peculiar way when it suits him, is at it again, even before the ink is dry on the CCJ’s decision. “GECOM has to advise the President on its readiness to conduct elections,” he intoned in his address to the nation. My response is, as the President himself said about the Government being in caretaker mode: “I don’t see it in the Constitution”